Q: Over the years, I've built a pretty good physique, but the guy who owns the gym where I work out says I have the upper trap development of Bill Gates. How can I grow some traps fast?

A: Your lack of trap development could be caused by a two things: neural blockage or a poor routine. The neural blockage could be caused by a subluxation at C3 or C4 (the third or fourth cervical vertebrae of your spine) or by the accessory nerve having adhered to the trap itself. A health practitioner trained in manipulation and Active Release Techniques can help you if that's your particular problem. To find one in your area, call 719-473-7000.

If, however, you're well-aligned, here's a great routine to pack meat on your traps (excerpted from The Poliquin Principles, Volume 2):

  1. Seated Dumbbell Shrugs*: 1 set of 6-8 reps, done using a 202 tempo.
  2. Rest 10 seconds.
  3. Standing Barbell Shrugs: 1 set of 10-12 reps, done using a 111 tempo (pausing at the top of the movement).
  4. Rest 10 seconds.
  5. Hammer Neck Extensions**: 1 set of 12-15 reps, done using a 202 tempo.
  6. Rest 2 minutes.
  7. Repeat steps 1 through 6 two more times.

* Perform these with your palms facing each other, and make sure you keep an upright position while doing these or the standing barbell shrugs.

** Very few people realize that neck extensions will help you thicken your traps. The truth is, when the shoulders are fixed in position, the clavicular division of the upper trapezius draws the occiput towards the shoulder. In other words, trapezius involvement is necessary to move the neck.

There are, of course, worse things than having trap development reminiscent of Bill Gates'. For instance, your male appendage could be an advertisement for Microsoft.

Q: How can I get a copy of "Poliquin Principles?" I called the number from an OLD copy of MM2K and apparently your departure prompted them to boycott your material (which is so damn hypocritical they praise you when you're on their team and throw knives at your back when you're not).

A: To order the book, call Biotest Laboratories at 800-525-1940. I'm selling them for $29.95 plus $6.50 for Fedex shipping and handling. By the way, that's the lowest price available on the market. The $29.95 price is a full $10.00 cheaper than what Muscle Media was charging for it.

Incidentally, the second edition of the Poliquin Principles should come out soon, as there are very few of the original around. The second edition will have a completely new chapter on supplementation (and yes, I'll recommend a variety of supplements from many different manufacturers).

By the way, my new arm training book is going to press soon after I am done with the finishing touches, but I'd like some help figuring out how many to order from the printer. The retail price will be $29.95, plus $6.50 shipping and handling. However, for those of you who pre-order BEFORE October 1st, I'll sell it to you for only $19.95 plus $6.50 shipping and handling. Of course, your credit card won't be charged until the day we ship the book. Call Biotest Laboratories at 800-530-1940 if you want to take advantage of this special offer.

Q: I'd like to give real growth hormone a try, but I haven't been able to because of the cost and lack of access. Meanwhile, I've noticed lots of ads for supplements saying they can increase growth hormone. However, I'm skeptical. Are there any supplements that will raise my natural growth hormone enough to make a difference? And, are they worth the money? Thanks, and oh, by the way, your book has helped me so much.

A: There are in fact some hyped up supplements out there that can actually raise your levels of growth hormone, but the dosage needed makes the product more expensive than taking the real stuff.

But don't despair; you can significantly boost your own growth hormone by taking in glutamine. The study by Welbourne (1995) showed that taking as little as 2 gm of glutamine can elevate circulating levels of growth hormone. (The only subject for which it did not work was an obese female.)

Glutamine has certainly come a long way in a short time. When I was studying for my undergrad degree twenty years ago, glutamine was a non-essential amino acid. Now, it's considered to be "conditionally essential" status. I certainly agree. I think glutamine, when used properly, can improve the anabolic drive by:

  1. Accelerating muscle glycogen synthesis during the first two hours after severe exercise.
  2. Regulating protein synthesis.
  3. Improving immune function. In my opinion, there's a strong correlation between the health of your immune system and your ability to put on size and strength.
  4. Sparing glucose.

Glutamine levels have been used as a monitor of overtraining by many Special Forces services. For instance, Canadian Armed Forces started measuring glutamine levels twenty years ago to assess overtraining levels in soldiers involved in Arctic maneuvers. Australian elite troops followed suit when they started measuring the physiological effects of jungle fighting drills. Nowadays, most of the research on glutamine's ergogenic effects has been done on marathon runners. I predict they'll soon start looking at its effects on strength athletes.

Unfortunately, experts disagree on its proper use. Dr. Eric Serano recommends very high dosages (refer to the interview that was posted last week), whereas Dr. Marcus Jones cautions against high dosages (see this week's "Gang of Five.") I, for one, prefer a middle-of-the-road approach, generally restricting my intake to no more than 4 to 6 grams a day.

There are many good brands of glutamine out there. I personally have my athletes use Power Glutamine by Champion Nutrition for its anabolic support functions. Why do I use Champion Nutrition? Because I own 10% of the company stock? No, I wish I did. I recommend it because I know I can simply trust that company. They make very high quality products.

Call them at 800-225-4831 to find the name of a dealer near you.

Q: First of all, I have to say what a privilege it is to be able to have my questions answered by a highly respected Olympic strength coach one whom I have admired since I started bodybuilding.

Here's my question. I am 16 years old and feel like I have a low testosterone level. Is there a reason why I shouldn't supplement with a pro-testosterone formula? If so, are there any other ways to get and keep the level of testosterone up, such as lower intensity workouts?

Also, do you recommend serious (all natural) bodybuilding for anyone under 18?

A: I am not convinced that you need to take a pro-hormone like androstenedione. I have several reasons:

A) You're only 16. It's possible you're just a late bloomer. Therefore, you may start producing more testosterone if you just wait a few months.

B) Taking a pro-hormone may inhibit your own endogenous production of testosterone. And, depending on the status of you enzymatic system, you may convert a lot of the pro-hormone into estrogen. Unless you're training for a sex change, I see no point in taking products such as DHEA or androstenedione.

C) You may be deficient in some trace mineral like zinc or manganese. Teenagers from Iran and Iraq are known to have delayed onset of puberty because the soil in those countries is lacking in these very important trace minerals. To estimate what your mineral levels truly are, you may want to get them checked by Balco Labs. They do the best mineral profile test in North America. A host of pro tennis players, football players, track athletes and bodybuilders get their blood analyzed by them. It's surprisingly cheap, too. Call them at (800) 777-7122.

Of course, there's always a chance that you already have high testosterone levels. You may just be having trouble putting on muscle because your cortisol levels are also high. There are a couple of things you can do to ensure a desirable testosterone/cortisol ratio, though. For one, you can regularly employ a post-workout shake (something that contains roughly 40 grams of protein, 200 grams of carbs, and perhaps a teaspoon or two of flax oil).

You may also want try the supplement known as phosphatidyl serine. The optimal dosage to lower cortisol is apparently between 300-800 mg . A cheap source for PS is the Power Store . They sell the "Now Foods" brand of PS. Each capsule contains 100mg of Phosphatidyl Serine. You can contact them by calling 800-382-9611, or faxing them at 815- 288-7433. Or, if you prefer, you can e-mail them at dpower@essex1.com. Incidentally, PS has also been shown to improve memory and learning.

You also asked whether I recommend serious, natural bodybuilding for anyone under the age of 18. Of course I do. As long as you follow proper exercise ergonomics and your workouts never exceed an hour in length, you should grow like a weed. Best success.

Q: What ever happened with you and Muscle Media? Did you leave because of the magazine's new format?

A: I stopped writing for Muscle Media for a variety of reasons. For one, I disliked the fact that they added editorial promos to my answers. At other times, they would cut an entire paragraph or section out of one of my columns because I said something that promoted another company or that went against EAS philosophy.

Probably the main reason, though, is that after TC was replaced, the magazine became so lame and sanitary. I used to receive comments at my seminars and by e-mail saying, " I only subscribed to MM because of you and Duchaine, and Duchaine was so edited down that he wasn't worth reading half the time." Dan once pointed out that when the magazine was climbing the charts, all the contributing writers routinely got reports about magazine sales that compared MM to its competitors, but once the infamous "Goldfinger" issue came out, no one got any more sales reports. Was it because sales plummeted? It sure seems like it.

In any event, I figured that I had enough of a following to move on to another magazine where I could be free to express myself without having my ideas bastardized.

In retrospect, I'm very happy. Testosterone Magazine, after only 11 weeks, probably has as many subscribers as Muscle Media had after being on the stands two or three years. Our numbers keep growing and we have now readers all over the world, in faraway places such as Australia, Croatia, and the former Soviet Union.

Don't get me wrong, though. I'm very grateful to have worked for Muscle Media as it gave me a lot of exposure, but it was time for me to move on.